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See also: évanescent



Borrowed from French évanescent (evanescent), from Latin ēvānēscēns (disappearing, vanishing), present participle of ēvānēscō (to disappear, vanish; to die out, fade away; to lapse),[1] from ē- (variant of ex- (prefix meaning ‘away, out’)) + vānēscō (to vanish) (from vānus (empty, vacant, void), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁weh₂- (to abandon, leave)) + -ēscō (suffix forming verbs with the sense ‘to become’)).



evanescent (comparative more evanescent, superlative most evanescent)

  1. Disappearing, vanishing.
    Antonym: nonevanescent
    • 1779 January, “Minutes of Agriculture, Made on a Farm of 300 Acres, of Various Soils, near Croydon, Surry. [] By Mr. [William Humphrey] Marshall. 4to. 12s. boards. Dodsley. [book review]”, in The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature (Series the Fifth), volume XLVII, London: Printed for A. Hamilton, [], →OCLC, page 25:
      He cannot ſuppreſs his diſapprobation [] of thoſe evaneſcent echoes of ſchool philoſophy, faint-warbling through the grove of letters, to the injury of natural and ſcientific knowledge, and the annoyance of English literature.
    • 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Foot-prints on the Sea-shore”, in Twice-Told Tales, volume II, Boston, Mass.: James Munroe and Company, →OCLC, page 314:
      The sea was each little bird's great playmate. [] In their airy flutterings, they seemed to rest on the evanescent spray.
    • 1911, Anna Katharine Green, “The Danger Moment”, in Initials Only, New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead & Company, →OCLC, book II (As Seen by Detective Sweetwater), page 188:
      I trust your love which will work wonders; and I trust my own, which sprang at a look but only gathered strength and permanence when I found that the soul of the man I love bettered his outward attractions, making the ideal of my foolish girlhood seem as unsubstantial and evanescent as a dream in the glowing noontide.
    1. (electromagnetism) Of an oscillating electric or magnetic field: not propagating as an electromagnetic wave but having its energy spatially concentrated in the vicinity of its source.
      • 1983, Allan W[hitenack] Snyder, John D[avid] Love, “Rays and Local Plane Waves”, in Optical Waveguide Theory (Science Paperbacks; 190), London, New York, N.Y.: Chapman & Hall, →ISBN; republished Boston, Mass., Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000, →ISBN, section 35—4 (Component Equations of the Ray-path Equation), page 671:
        Consequently, the electromagnetic fields have plane-wave characteristics in local regions, except immediately adjacent to a caustic where there is a rapid transition from the wavelike behavior of the local plane-wave fields to the evanescent behavior beyond the ray path.
      • 2015, Yitzhak Mendelson, “Optical Sensors”, in Joseph D. Bronzino, Donald R. Peterson, editors, Medical Devices and Human Engineering (Biomedical Engineering Handbook; 2), 4th edition, Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, →ISBN, section I (Biomedical Sensors), page 6-1:
        The analyte directly affects the optical properties of a waveguide, such as evanescent waves (electromagnetic waves generated in the medium outside the optical waveguide when light is reflected from within) or surface plasmons (resonances induced by an evanescent wave in a thin film deposited on a waveguide surface).
    2. (mathematics) Of a number or value: diminishing to the point of reaching zero as a limit; infinitesimal.
      • 1729, Isaac Newton, “Section I. Of the Method of First and Last Ratio’s of Quantities, by the Help whereof We Demonstrate the Propositions that Follow.”, in Andrew Motte, transl., The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. [] , volume I, London: [] Benjamin Motte, [], →OCLC, book I (Of the Motion of Bodies), pages 54–55:
        [] I choſe rather to reduce the demonſtrations of the following propoſitions to the firſt and laſt ſums and ratio's of naſcent and evaneſcent quantities, that is, to the limits of thoſe ſums and ratio's; [] Perhaps it may be objected, that there is no ultimate proportion of evaneſcent quantities; becauſe the proportion, before the quantities have vaniſhed, is not the ultimate, and when they are vaniſhed, is none. [] [B]y the ultimate ratio of evaneſcent quantities is to be underſtood the ratio of the quantities, not before they vaniſh, nor afterwards, but with which they vaniſh.
      • 1734, [George Berkeley], The Analyst; or, A Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician. [], London: Printed for J[acob] Tonson [], →OCLC, section XXXV, page 59:
        And what are theſe Fluxions? The Velocities of evaneſcent Increments? And what are theſe ſame evaneſcent Increments? They are neither finite Quantities, nor Quantities infinitely ſmall, nor yet nothing. May we not call them the Ghoſts of departed Quantities?
      • 1735, [George Berkeley], A Defence of Free-thinking in Mathematics. [], London: Printed for J[acob] Tonson, →OCLC, paragraph XLIV, page 55:
        Some hold the evaneſcent increments to be real quantities, ſome to be nothings, ſome to be limits. As many Men, ſo many minds: Each differing one from another, and all from Sir Iſaac Newton.
      • 1972, Morris Kline, “Calculus in the Eighteenth Century”, in Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN; paperback edition, volume 2, New York, N.Y., Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1990, →ISBN, section 3 (The Technique of Integration and Complex Quantities), page 406:
        [Leonhard] Euler emphasized that the derivative is the ratio of the evanescent differentials and said that the integral calculus was concerned with finding the function itself.
  2. Barely there; almost imperceptible.
    • 1709 August 22, Archibald Adams, “IV. A Letter from Dr. Archibald Adams to Dr. Hans Sloane, R[oyal] S[ociety] Secr[etary], Concerning the Manner of Making Microscopes, &c. Norwich, August 11, 1709 [Julian calendar]”, in Philosophical Transactions. Giving Some Account of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious, in Many Considerable Parts of the World, volume XXVII, number 325, London: Printed for H. Clements [] , and W. Innys [] , and D. Brown [], published January–March 1710 (1712 printing), →OCLC, page 26:
      If the Fluids moving in an Evaneſcent Artery [i.e., a capillary] appear Globular, I ſuppose its becauſe the Canal is round, which alters the Caſe much.
    • 1767, James Hervey, “Letter IX. Theron to Aspasio.”, in Theron and Aspasio: Or, A Series of Dialogues and Letters, upon the Most Important and Interesting Subjects. In Three Volumes, 5th edition, volume III, London: Printed by Charles Rivington, for John and Francis Rivington, [], →OCLC, page 163:
      Here are Sholes and Sholes, of various Characters, and of the moſt diverſified Sizes; from the gigantic Whale, whoſe flouncings "tempeſt the Ocean," to the evaneſcent Anchovy, whoſe Subſtance diſſolves in the ſmalleſt Fircaſſee.
    • 1888 January, Thomas Hardy, “The Withered Arm”, in Wessex Tales: Strange, Lively, and Commonplace [], volume I, London, New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1888, →OCLC, page 64:
      Her face too was fresh in colour, but it was of a totally different quality—soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose-petals.
    • 1906 January–October, Joseph Conrad, chapter VII, in The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale, London: Methuen & Co., [], published 1907, →OCLC; The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (Collection of British Authors; 3995), copyright edition, Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1907, →OCLC, page 139:
      While he was speaking the hands on the face of the clock behind the great man's back—a heavy, glistening affair of massive scrolls in the same dark marble as the mantelpiece, and with a ghostly, evanescent tick—had moved through the space of seven minutes.
    • 1911, Johann David Schoepf [i.e., Johann David Schoepff], “Return from Pittsburgh”, in Alfred J. Morrison, transl., Travels in the Confederation [1783–1784]: From the German, volume I (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia), Philadelphia, Pa.: William J. Campbell, →OCLC, page 290:
      If in the middle of summer the water of Turkey Creek [] is whipped and beaten with a stick, and then if a fire-brand is passed over, a mist is enkindled and a faint evanescent flame runs over the entire width of the brook.
    • 1916, D[avid] H[erbert] Lawrence, “[On the Lago di Garda] The Spinner and the Monks”, in Twilight in Italy, London: Duckworth and Co. [], →OCLC, page 32:
      And I was pale, and clear, and evanescent, like the light, and they were dark, and close, and constant, like the shadow.
    • 2013, Gérard Gousbet, “Understanding Quantum Mechanics”, in Hidden Worlds in Quantum Physics, Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, →ISBN, page 394:
      If we could remove everything from a piece of space, [] then there would still be quantum fluctuations of fields and virtual particles, bouncing to and fro against the wall of nothing. Ironically enough, this piece of space, filled with so many evanescent entities, is nowadays called vacuum. However, this vacuum is not nothing. It is a quantum vacuum to which the argument of the Ancient Greeks does not apply.
  3. Ephemeral, fleeting, momentary.
    Antonyms: nonevanescent; see also Thesaurus:ephemeral
    • 1732, William King, “Containing Some Principles Previously Necessary to the Understanding and Solution of the Difficulty about the Origin of Evil”, in Edmund Law, transl., An Essay on the Origin of Evil. [] Translated from the Latin, [], 2nd corrected and enlarged edition, London: Printed by J. Stephens, for W. Thurlbourn []; and sold by J. Knapton, R. Knaplock and W. Innys [], →OCLC, section II (Of the Enquiry after the First Cause), paragraph X, page 33:
      It is to be obſerved, farther, that when we annihilate any thing in our Mind, we conſider it as ſomething evaneſcent, and removed out of Sight; []
    • 1798 February, “Constantia” [pseudonym; Judith Sargent Murray], “No. XLVII”, in The Gleaner. A Miscellaneous Production. In Three Volumes, volume II, printed at Boston, Mass.: By I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews, [], →OCLC, page 138:
      But alas! how momentary was the bliss!—the evaneſcent viſion ſoon fled, and the youthful queen [Mary, Queen of Scots] was arrayed in the melancholy garb of widowhood!
    • 1842, [anonymous collaborator of Letitia Elizabeth Landon], chapter XXXI, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 104:
      She comforted him by words of the happiest import, uttered in low tones—but words that sealed their impress on the memory and the heart; but she was now so worn, and appeared so evanescent, that every instant he feared she would expire before him. Isabella saw his suffering, and suggested that "he had better depart—she would herself remain."
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “Surmises”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 236:
      In times of strong emotion mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness.
    1. (botany) Of plant parts: shed after a period.
      • 1757 February, [John Hill; Thomas Hale], “Curious Plants and Flowers Now in Their Perfection”, in Eden: or, A Compleat Body of Gardening. [], number XXII, London: Printed for T[homas] Osborne, []; T. Trye, []; S. Crowder and Co., []; and H. Woodgate, [], →OCLC, section I (Flora, or the Pleasure-garden), page 253, column 2:
        Upward it [the "apennine adonis", probably the Pyrenean pheasant's eye (Adonis pyrenaica)] is of a pale green, with ſome Tinge of yellowiſh; and it is all the Way duſted with little grey tranſparent Globules. Theſe are the Extremities of ſo many round evaneſcent ſecretory Ducts; as the Hairs of other Plants are the more permanent Extremities of theirs.
      • 1787, [Carl Linnaeus; Carl Linnaeus the younger], “1135. Taxus. * Tournes. 362. Yew.”, in The Families of Plants, with Their Natural Characters, According to the Number, Figure, Situation, and Proportion of All the Parts of Frutification. Translated from the Last Edition, [] of the Genera Plantarum, and of the Mantissæ Plantarum of the Elder Linneus, and from the Supplementum Plantarum of the Younger Linneus, [], volume I, Lichfield, Staffordshire: Printed by John Jackson; sold by J[oseph] Johnson, []; T. Byrne, []; and J. Balfour, [], →OCLC, class XXII (Two Houses (Dioecia)), section XIII (One Brotherhood (Monadelphia)), page 706:
        Per[ianth]. Berry from the receptacle elongated into a cup globular, ſucculent, gaging at the top, colour'd, at length waſting from dryneſs, evaneſcent.
      • 1960, Richard Evans Schultes, “Orchidaceae A. L. de Jussieu”, in Native Orchids of Trinidad and Tobago (International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology: Botany Division; 3), Oxford, Oxfordshire, New York, N.Y.: Pergamon Press, →OCLC, page 19:
        Leaves solitary or numerous, sometimes evanescent or rarely wanting, radical or cauline, alternate or occasionally whorled, simple, varying from a sheathing bract to a definite blade which is membranaceous, papyraceous, coriaceous or fleshy, flat or plicate, usually parallel-veined.

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  1. ^ evanescent, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1891; “evanescent, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]




  1. third-person plural future active indicative of ēvānēscō



Borrowed from French évanescent.


evanescent m or n (feminine singular evanescentă, masculine plural evanescenți, feminine and neuter plural evanescente)

  1. evanescent